Springdale-based Core Brewing and Distilling is moving into the ready-to-drink beverage category with its release of three canned cocktails.
The drinks sold under the 25th State Craft Cocktail brand include the gin-based Hotspur, which is made with lavender and honeysuckle; Johnson County includes vodka with a peach tonic, lemon and chamomile; and The Shipwreck, which has a rum base with mango, key lime and coconut. They average 10% alcohol by volume.
The beverages are on sale in the state's liquor stores, but since they are made with distilled spirits, they won't be available in local grocery stores that typically sell beer and wine products. Some of the 25th State drinks are also available in Missouri.
Cole Brothers, lead sales manager for Core Brewing and Distilling, said the brand's name is a tribute to Arkansas, the 25th state in the union, and shows the craft brewer's pride in its home state. He said the products offer convenience to customers who don't want the hassle of mixing up cocktails and simplifies the process of drink-making, which can require a wide variety of ingredients beyond simply the alcohol in the beverage.
"It's leaving it up to the professionals," Brothers said.
According to a December report by Grand View Research Inc., the global ready-to-drink cocktail market is expected to grow to $1.67 billion by 2027, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.1% from 2020-27. Low-alcohol flavored drinks are expected to continue to be a driving factor with the health conscious consumer, but "Permiumization, convenience and on-the-go trends among millennials are also driving the market," the report said.
The report notes that spirit-based cocktails were largest and the fastest-growing segment in 2019, and made up a more than 40% share of the overall revenue in 2019. Infusion of botanical ingredients is expected to remain a factor in the segment.
The new offerings come after Core released its first craft seltzer product, the 84-calorie Scarlet Letter. The hard seltzer is distributed in six states. Brothers said the success of the seltzer has been phenomenal.
"We're killing it," he said.
Core isn't the only Arkansas brewery offering craft seltzer. Little Rock-based Lost Forty and Diamond Bear Brewing Co., Rogers-based Ozark Beer company and Bentonville Brewing Co. all offer their own craft hard seltzer options, according to Sylvia Blaine, executive director of the Arkansas Brewers Guild.
Kara Nielsen, director of food and drink for WGSN, a global company that focuses on consumer and design trends, said in a recent interview that millennials and generation Z consumers are helping to drive sales in ready-to-drink cocktails and hard seltzer product segments as they search for different styles of beverages with interesting flavors. She said these younger consumers are more interested in experimenting with new drinks than customers have in years past.
She said the covid-19 pandemic made consumers focus more on in-home experiences, and the ready-to-drink cocktail segment was in position to capitalize on that behavior by providing a treat for homebound consumers.
"The canned cocktail allows for the craft bar experience anywhere," Nielsen explained.
Nielsen said Core is smart to focus on products with local flavors and themes made with various alcohol bases.
"Everybody wants more choice now," she said. "It makes sense for a company to offer a little bit of everything."
Brothers said at Core, beer is still the heartbeat of the company, but the addition of its seltzers and now its ready-to-drink cocktails are a natural evolution as the brewery grows and expands.
"We are a beverage company now," he said.